how to choose a breast pump | Baby Journey

How to Choose a Breast Pump for First-Time Moms

Taking the Stress Out Of Buying a Breast Pump

Are you a new mom, or a mother to be? If so, you may be wondering how to choose a breast pump. After all, breast pumps are commonly recommended by doctors’ offices and can be found on many baby registries.

But choosing a breast pump isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are different types, brands, and a range of price points. New moms and moms-to-be don’t need any extra stress! That is why in this article we break down the ins and outs of breast pumps and answer all the questions; simplifying how to pick a breast pump.

Do I Need a Breast Pump?

It isn’t uncommon for expecting mothers to wonder, “Do I need a breast pump?”. While everyone can have a different definition of the word “need”, many moms find breast pumps invaluable.

Breast pumps can be great for a variety of reasons. When your baby is a newborn, you may suffer from engorgement. Engorgement is when your breasts are so full of milk that they become painful. Newborns may have trouble latching on and nursing from engorged breasts. If this happens, you can use a breast pump to help express some milk and relieve some of the pressure.

Breast pumps, especially hospital-grade breast pumps, can be necessary if your baby is ill or a preemie. Babies born premature, or those that are ill, may have difficulty nursing from the breast. Using a breast pump can help you establish and maintain a milk supply so you can provide breast milk to your baby.

A breast pump may prove helpful for moms with preemies or moms who have a hectic working life. - How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
A breast pump may prove helpful for moms with preemies or moms who have a hectic working life. Source: Medela

Moms who work rely on breast pumps when they are away from their baby. When you can’t nurse your baby, you can pump. This will help maintain your supply and provide a bottle of milk for your child while they are with a caregiver. Some moms also pump bottles of breastmilk so they can go on a date, go grocery shopping, or just offer someone else the chance to feed the baby.

As you can tell, while a breast pump isn’t always a necessity, it is an extremely beneficial tool. Many breast pump uses apply after the birth of your baby. This leads us to our next question.

When Should I Buy a Breast Pump?

Most women do not use a breast pump until after their baby is born. You will want to have your breast pump by the time you bring your baby home from the hospital.

Even though you won’t need to pump until your little bundle of joy arrives, it doesn’t hurt to start looking for breast pumps early. It is helpful to review the various types, brands, and models before you need the pump.

If you plan to purchase your pump, buying it before you give birth can give you time to familiarize yourself with its parts and how it works. However, not all women need to buy a pump before birth.

This is because some insurance companies, and even aid organizations like WIC, will provide a breast pump to you once your child is born. If insurance or an organization is covering the cost of your pump, they probably will not give it to you until the birth. Most women receive their insurance covered pump while still at the hospital.

Check if your insurance company covers specific models of breast pumps prior to getting one.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
Check if your insurance company covers specific models of breast pumps prior to getting one. Source: Babylist

Not all pumps are covered by insurance. You may want to buy a specific model. If you are purchasing your pump it is wise to buy it shortly before the birth of your baby. If you are thinking about when to buy a breast pump, know that you want to make sure you have your pump before you bring your little one home.

There are rare instances when a doctor may recommend a pump before your baby is born. However, your doctor’s office may provide a pump under these circumstances.

How to Choose a Breast Pump

Now that you know why you need a breast pump and when you need it, let’s discuss what to look for in a breast pump.

There are many different breast pump brands. Each one may offer one type of pump or many different types. Reviewing the features and deciding which ones best suit your lifestyle is essential when you’re questioning “which breast pump should I get?”.

Here are some of the most important features to consider.

Features to Consider

Electric vs. Manual

The most common comparison between pump styles is electric vs. manual. Electric pumps can be battery-powered or plugged into an outlet. Electric pumps do the work for you with automatic rhythmic suction. Manual pumps require you to create the suction either by compressing a lever or squeezing.

Many women have both types of pumps. Electric pumps can be more useful when you are pumping to make bottles, such as when you are at work or expressing for a baby that can’t nurse.

Alternatively, manual pumps are better at relieving engorgement or pumping from the breast that your baby isn’t nursing from. Typically, manual pumps are inexpensive, so a lot of moms will have both types on hand.

Manual breast pumps tend to be inexpensive compared to an electric breast pump.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
Manual breast pumps tend to be inexpensive compared to an electric breast pump.

Single vs. Double

When discussing the types of breast pump, the second most common comparison is single vs. double.

A single breast pump can only pump one breast at a time. This means it has one bottle, one flange, and one connector and tube. A single can be great when you want to relieve engorgement. It can also be used to catch milk from the breast your baby is not drinking from during a nursing session.

Double pumps express milk from both breasts at the same time. Double breast pumps are almost always electric. These pumps are best when you are away from your baby and can’t nurse. They can make milk collection much more convenient and fast.

A single breast pump comes with one pump for one bottle, whereas a double breast pump has two of each.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
A single breast pump comes with one pump for one bottle, whereas a double breast pump has two of each.

Open vs Closed System

A closed system means that your breast milk does not come into contact with the pump. It has a barrier and sometimes a backflow protector to ensure that milk does not get into the tubes and subsequently the pump itself.

An open system does not have a barrier. Closed systems are usually more hygienic and are becoming commonplace. When choosing between an open vs closed breast pump, most moms prefer closed.

An open system does not have a barrier to prevent milk particles from entering pump parts unlike a closed system. - How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
An open system does not have a barrier to prevent milk particles from entering pump parts unlike a closed system. Source: Miliken Medical

Suction Strength

The best breast pumps often have varying suction levels. Hospital-grade breast pumps are known for having the strongest suction level and widest range of levels.

Electric pumps can have buttons that incrementally increase suction levels or dials that allow you to slowly adjust the level. Manual pumps do not have suction levels per se but can be adjusted by changing how hard you squeeze or pump them.

You want a variety of suction levels for both comfort and effectiveness so you can produce the most milk.

Size and Fit

It is important to look at the size and fit of the flanges, or the part that goes on your breast and pulls in the nipple. This determines comfort and is a huge part of answering which breast pump is best for me.

Some pumps come with multiple flange sizes, others make them available for purchase, and some don’t have different sizes. Pumps like the Haakaa are really well-liked, but the flange size isn’t adjustable and moms with large breasts may struggle with this.

Getting a great fitting flange is a must to avoid pain and achieve maximum output.

A helpful infographic on finding the right flange.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
A helpful infographic on finding the right flange. Source: Healthline


There are a few factors that affect your comfort. Think about the flange size, but also the size of the bottles available. Big bottles can be heavy hanging on your breasts.

Also, look at if the pump allows you to recline or will it leak if you are not sitting upright. Some moms are also more comfortable with quiet and discreet pumps. It truly depends on your needs and preferences.

Speed & Efficiency

This is a major consideration for working moms or busy stay-at-home moms. The best pump can quickly trigger a letdown and then keep the milk flowing to produce a good amount of milk in a short amount of time.

Pumps usually have adjustable speeds, or how fast it sucks, as well as suction levels. Adjustable speeds can be necessary for building and maintaining a milk supply.


Some breast pumps are much more portable than others. There are electric pumps that are designed to be travel-friendly with organized totes and cooler bags, but they still need to be plugged in.

There are also battery-powered electric pumps that you can wear inside your shirt, carry in your pocket, or wear on a lanyard. These are the most portable because you don’t have to be tied to an outlet.

Manual pumps are also great for travel as they don’t require batteries or an outlet.


Pumps range from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. Your insurance may cover the cost of a pump or cover a portion of the cost. Some women use multiple kinds of pumps and end up buying a few. Finding one that fits your budget is key.


Breast pumps typically come with everything you need, like bottles, flanges, connectors, and valves. However, it can be very helpful to have multiple sets so that you can still use your pump while you are cleaning the other set of parts.

Other accessories include travel bags, cooler bags, and cleaning items. Some pumps accept universal accessories that can be more affordable than the brand name.

Lifestyle Factors to Consider

Along with the specific features of the pump, you want to make sure that it fits your lifestyle. You should consider the following:

Pumping Frequency

If you plan to pump often, you may prefer a double electric pump. These pumps will save you time and can produce better results than a manual pump and/or a single pump.

If you are an exclusive pumper, a hospital-grade pump is likely the most effective and durable.

Location of Pumping

Where you pump can determine the type of pump you choose. If you are pumping close to an outlet, opt for an electric pump.

If you are pumping while driving, taking care of other kids, or in public, choose a portable and discreet pump. Some women don’t mind sitting down to pump every couple of hours while others need a portable option that can go where they go without being noticed.

The location of you pumping may also affect your decision in choosing a breast pump.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
The location of you pumping may also affect your decision in choosing a breast pump. Source: Kindred Bravely

Insurance Coverage

As mentioned, some insurance programs will cover the cost of a pump or at least a portion of the cost. However, not all pump types are covered. The cost of the pump with and without insurance can be a deciding factor on which pump you choose.

Is It Okay to Purchase a Used Breast Pump?

Wondering how to buy a breast pump that has been used? Consider these factors first.

Do you know the history of the pump? It may be near the end of its lifespan regarding the motor. Pumps and their parts wear down over time. It may not be worth it to buy a used pump that won’t last long.

Is it a closed or open system? A closed system is more hygienic, though you should buy all new parts to go with the pump, like bottles and flanges. Purchasing an open system pump second-hand is not advised. There is no way to completely sterilize an open system pump and this could be dangerous for you and your baby.

Did you check the warranty? Most pumps are manufactured to be single-user. More than one person using the pump often voids the warranty and goes against the user manual.

Buying vs Renting a Breast Pump

If you have decided against buying a used breast pump, you may be weighing your options between buying new or renting a pump.

Typically, hospitals will rent pumps to mothers of baby’s with feeding issues. This can be preemies or children who are ill. You will need to work with your medical provider to determine how this works. However, hospitals clean and sanitize their pumps as well as provide new parts so you won’t have to face the same worries as if you were buying a pump used.

Buying a pump new can be costlier but it also allows you to use the pump at your discretion and keep it for as long as you like. Buying a pump new also ensures that it is the cleanest and safest it can be for you and your baby.

FAQs on How to Choose a Breast Pump

How do I know what size breast pump to use?

Many breast pumps have sizing guides that can help you determine the correct flange size. A lactation consultant can also be a huge help.

What is the best breast pump for first-time moms?

There is no perfect answer to the question, what is a good breast pump for first-time moms. However, usually, a double electric breast pump is the most convenient to use.

One with multiple modes and suction levels will also provide the most comfort for moms who are not used to a breast pump. A popular electric breast pump that allows for single and double pumping includes the Spectra S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump.

Which is better, electric or manual breast pump?

Many moms use both. An electric pump is great for when you cannot nurse your baby and want to pump both breasts at once to achieve maximum output. A manual pump is a great backup to carry with you and is also helpful to relieve engorgement or when you only need to pump one side.

Do electric breast pumps get more milk?

Most women find that electric breast pumps help them get more milk. This is because they have a massage mode and an expression mode as well as various suction levels. These things allow them to more closely mimic the nursing patterns of a baby compared to trying to recreate them with a manual pump.

Most women find electric breast pumps increase milk expression compared to manual ones.- How to Choose a Breast Pump | Baby Journey
Most women find electric breast pumps increase milk expression compared to manual ones. Source: FDA

Is it better to double pump or single?

If you are at work, pumping for a getaway, or trying to build a milk stash, a double pump will get the job done faster. Single pumps are helpful for some situations, like if your baby only nursed from one side and you want to pump the other. But if you need to pump both breasts, using a single will take longer.

Buying the Best Pump

Buying a breast pump isn’t hard once you know the basics, but it will take some research on your part!

Once you know the type of pump you are looking for, review its features and check with your insurance and/or your budget. You may find, like most moms, that you end up purchasing and using two or three different kinds of pumps, which is perfectly okay!

Hope this simple guide helps! If you have questions or thoughts about choosing a breast pump, tell us in the comments!

how to choose a breast pump | Baby Journey

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